International Organizations Reiterate Support for Guatemalan Communities and Institutions Upholding Rule of Law and Respect for Human Rights in the case of the communities of La Puya and El Tambor Mine

[en español abajo]

May 24, 2016

The undersigned human rights and environmental law organizations applaud recent efforts by Guatemalan courts to enforce domestic laws and international norms in relation to the right to consultation and corporate accountability in the case of the El Tambor mine, also known as “Progreso VII Derivada.” We reiterate our support for the Communities in peaceful resistance of La Puya in Guatemala.

Guatemalan courts have granted a provisional injunction, ordering the suspension of the license for gold and silver extraction at the El Tambor mine. The mine is owned by the company Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala, SA (Exmingua), subsidiary of US company Kappes, Cassiday & Associates. KCA acquired 100% interest in Exmingua from Canadian company Radius Gold in 2012; Radius receives royalty interest and cash payments from the project.

The injunction was granted because Guatemala’s highest court recognized that the State failed its duty to consult the affected communities prior to awarding the license and did not initiate processes to seek the consent of affected Indigenous peoples. The right of Indigenous peoples to consultation is enshrined in ILO Convention 169 and the right to free, prior and informed consent is recognized by Guatemala, a signatory to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The recent rulings have affirmed the concerns expressed by communities in San Pedro Ayampuc and San Jose del Golfo. From the time they learned of the mining concession in 2011, they have raised concerns about the lack of consultation, violation of Indigenous peoples’ rights, and detrimental health and environmental impacts of the mine.

International organizations have closely observed the case since the La Puya movement initiated a non-violent sit-in at the entrance to the mine in 2012 to demand their government comply with constitutionally-required protections for Guatemalan citizens. Their legitimate concerns have been met with repression, public defamation and trumped-up criminal charges. Violence has been committed against human rights defenders with impunity. There still has been no real investigation into the June 2012 shooting of a La Puya activist, nor has there been investigation or redress for the serious injuries sustained by protestors during the violent eviction by the police in May 2014. Questions also remain about the incident on the night of April 29, in which two people were injured at the sit-in in front of the MEM.

We reiterate the importance of investigating these acts of violence, as well as addressing the serious concerns raised by the communities in terms of the environmental impact of mining activities on their water and health. International experts who reviewed the company’s Environmental Impact Assessment found numerous deficiencies and concluded that it did not meet basic international standards.

We also draw attention to the fact that the court injunction has set in motion a series of investigations that reveal evidence of possible illegal activity by Exmingua.

On March 10 of this year, the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) enforced the injunction through corresponding administrative measures by suspending Exmingua’s license for mineral extraction. A MEM inspection in April verified the company continued to operate, and on May 9, police and prosecutors arrested four Exmingua employees on charges of illegal resource extraction. They had in their possession 19 sacks of gold and silver concentrate, worth an estimated US$1.9 million in total. We are concerned that on May 10, charges were dropped against the men for “lack of merit,” released the workers and ordered the sacks of minerals returned to the company, an action that suggests a lack of understanding of the resolutions of Guatemala´s highest courts. However, just days later, police and prosecutors carried out four more raids at a clandestine warehouse and recovered 300 sacks, worth a total of approximately $30 million.

The media has revealed that investigators had traced helicopters contracted by the company – allegedly used to transport minerals from the mine site to a farm in El Progreso — to Juan Carlos Monzón, former Private Secretary to ex Vice President Roxana Baldetti, and to Raúl Osoy Penado, a business man who allegedly served as a front man for Baldetti. All have been embroiled in a series of major corruption scandals that led to the arrest of Baldetti and former President Otto Pérez Molina, among many others in 2015.

A separate legal case has raised serious questions regarding whether the company possessed the necessary municipal construction permits to operate at the site, including the alleged falsification of these permits.

Guatemala has taken important strides to address long-standing challenges of government corruption and impunity. We commend the Guatemalan courts for their recent rulings that uphold rule of law as well as the efforts of the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Public Prosecutor’s Office for their actions to uphold the right to prior consultation and ensure corporate accountability in this case.

We call on US company KCA and its subsidiary Exmingua to immediately halt all operations and comply with the recent MEM resolution and the provisional court injunction.

We call on the Public Prosecutor’s Office to continue all relevant investigations into alleged criminal acts related to Exmingua, KCA and the El Tambor mine.

We call on the Guatemalan government and the Interior Ministry to ensure the safety of those who participate in La Puya and of Guatemalan citizens who engage in peaceful protest.

We urge the US Embassy to support human rights defenders and condemn the use of hate speech and defamation as a tool to impede their work. Further, we call on the Embassy to take all possible measures to ensure US companies respect the law and human rights, in accordance with domestic legislation, court rulings, and guided by the highest international standards for multinational corporations. We urge US Ambassador Todd Robinson to make a public statement to this effect.

Signed:

Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala
Center for International Environmental Law
Maritimes – Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network
Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada
Rights Action Canada
Rights Action USA
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America
Latin America Working Group
Oxfam
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
American Jewish World Service
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Institute Justice Team
International Platform against Impunity


Organizaciones internacionales reiteran su apoyo a las comunidades y a  las instituciones que quieren apoyar el estado de derecho y el respeto a los derechos humanos en el caso de las comunidades de la Puya y la mina El Tambor

24 de mayo de 2016

Las organizaciones de derechos humanos y derecho ambiental abajo firmantes aplaudimos los esfuerzos recientes de las cortes guatemaltecas para aplicar la ley nacional y normas internacionales en relación al derecho a la consulta y la responsabilidad corporativa en el caso de la mina El Tambor, también conocido como “Progreso VII Derivada”; y reiteramos nuestro apoyo para las Comunidades en resistencia pacífica de la Puya en Guatemala.

Las cortes guatemaltecas han otorgado un amparo provisional, dejando en suspenso el otorgamiento de la licencia de explotación de oro y plata en la mina El Tambor . El dueño del proyecto es la empresa Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala, SA (Exmingua), subsidiaria de la empresa estadounidense Kappes, Cassiday & Associates. KCA; la cual adquirió 100% del interés en Exmingua de la empresa canadiense Radius Gold en 2012. Radius sigue recibiendo intereses por regalías y pagos en efectivo del proyecto.

El amparo fue otorgado porque las cortes reconocieron que el Estado no cumplió con su obligación de consultar a la población antes de iniciar el proyecto y no inició ningún proceso para buscar el consentimiento de las poblaciones indígenas afectadas. El derecho de pueblos indígenas a ser consultados está consagrado en el Convenio 169 de la Organización Internacional de Trabajo y el derecho al consentimiento libre, previo e informado es reconocido por Guatemala, país signatario de la Declaración de las Naciones Unidas sobre los derechos de los pueblos indígenas.

Las resoluciones recientes han afirmado las preocupaciones expresadas por las comunidades de los municipios de San Pedro Ayampuc y San José del Golfo.Desde el momento en que supieron de la concesión minera en 2011, han expresado sus preocupaciones sobre la falta de consulta, violaciones de los derechos de pueblos indígenas y los impactos negativos de la mina en el medio ambiente y la salud de las personas.

Organizacionesinternacionales hemos observado de cerca este caso, desde que las comunidades iniciaron un plantón pacífico en la entrada a la mina en 2012 para exigir que su gobierno cumpliera con las garantías de protección para la ciudadanía establecidas en la Constitución guatemalteca. La respuesta a sus preocupaciones legítimas ha sido una combinación de represión, difamación pública y criminalización. Se han cometido actos de violencia en contra de las y los defensores de derechos humanos de estas comunidades que prevalecen impunes. Aun hace falta una investigación real del atentado en contra de una activista en junio de 2012; tampoco ha habido investigación o reparación por las graves heridas sufridas por comunitarios durante el desalojo violento llevado a cabo por la PNC en mayo de 2014. No se ha esclarecido el incidente ocurrido la noche del 29 de abril, en el que dos personas resultaron heridas en el plantón frente al MEM.

Reiteramos la importancia de investigar estos actos de violencia, así como abordar las preocupaciones serias de las comunidades en relación con impactos ambientales, sobre el agua y su salud por la actividad minera. Expertos internacionales quienes analizaron el Estudio de Impacto Ambiental encontraron numerosas deficiencias y concluyeron que no cumple con los estándares internacionales básicos.

Destacamos también el hecho de que el amparo ha puesto en marcha una serie de investigaciones que revelan evidencia de posibles actividades ilegales por parte de Exmingua.

El 10 de marzo del año en curso, el Ministerio de Energía y Minas (MEM) respondió a la resolución legal con las medidas administrativas correspondientes, suspendiendo la licencia de explotación de Exmingua. Una inspección del MEM en abril verificó que la empresa seguía operando.El 9 de mayo, agentes policiales y el Ministerio Público detuvieron a cuatro trabajadores de Exmingua, sindicados del delito de explotación ilegal de recursos naturales. En su vehículo se encontraron 19 costales de concentrado de oro y plata, valorados en total en aproximadamente US$1.9 millones . Nos preocupa que el 10 de mayo se retiraron los cargos contra los hombres por “falta de mérito”, fueron puestos en libertad los trabajadores y los sacos de minerales devueltos a la empresa, una acción que sugiere una falta de conocimiento de la resolución de las máximas cortes del país. Sin embargo, unos días después, policías y agentes fiscales llevaron a cabo cuatro allanamientos de una bodega clandestina e incautaron 300 sacos, valorados en un total de aproximadamente US$30 millones.

Notas de prensa han revelado que investigadores habían vinculado helicópteros contratados por la empresa – supuestamente usados para transportar minerales de la mina a una finca en El Progreso – a Juan Carlos Monzón, ex secretario privado de la ex vice presidenta Roxana Baldetti, y a Raúl Osoy Penado, empresario que supuestamente actuó como testaferro para Baldetti . Todos han sido envueltos en una serie de grandes escándalos de corrupción que resultaron en el arresto de Baldetti y el ex presidente Otto Pérez Molina en 2015, entre muchos otros.

Otro caso legal ha revelado serias dudas sobre si la empresa tenía los permisos municipales necesarios para sus actividades de construcción en el sitio e incluso la presunta falsificación de dichos permisos.

Guatemala ha tomado pasos importantes para abordar los grandes retos de combatir la corrupción estatal y la impunidad. Aplaudimos las resoluciones apegadas a derecho tomadas por las cortes guatemaltecas,así también reconocemos los esfuerzos del Ministerio de Energía y Minas y el Ministerio Público por las acciones recientes para hacer cumplir el derecho a la consulta previa y asegurar que las empresas también cumplan con la ley en este caso.

Hacemos un llamado a la empresa estadounidense KCA y su subsidiaria Exmingua a suspender de inmediato sus operaciones y acatar la resolución reciente del MEM y el amparo provisional.

Hacemos un llamado al Ministerio Público a que continúe con todas las investigaciones pertinentes de supuestos actos criminales en relación a Exmingua, KCA y el proyecto El Tambor.

Hacemos un llamado al Gobierno de Guatemala y al Ministerio de Gobernación, para garantizar la seguridad de las personas en la Puya y cualquier ciudadano que participe en manifestaciones pacíficas.

Instamos a la Embajada de los Estados Unidos a que apoye a las y los defensores de los derechos humanos y condene el uso del discurso de odio y la difamación como una herramienta para impedir su labor. Además, hacemos un llamado a la Embajada a tomar todas las medidas posibles y necesarias para asegurar que empresas estadounidenses respeten la ley y los derechos humanos, de acuerdo con la legislación nacional, resoluciones de las cortes y con los más altos estándares internacionales para empresas multinacionales. Instamos al Embajador Todd Robinson a que haga un pronunciamiento público en tal efecto.

Firmado:

Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala
Center for International Environmental Law
Maritimes – Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network
Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada
Rights Action Canada
Rights Action USA
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America
Latin America Working Group
Oxfam
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
American Jewish World Service
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Institute Justice Team
International Platform against Impunity

US Company Continues Illegal Mining Operations at El Tambor Mine

US Company Kappes Cassiday & Associates and Guatemalan subsidiary, Exmingua, continue to mine gold illegally in San Pedro Ayampuc, Guatemala.

On February 22, 2016, the Guatemalan Supreme Court granted an injunction that suspends the granting of KCA’s license for extraction of gold and silver at the El Tambor mine. The Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mines, the body responsible for carrying out the administrative procedures to suspend the license, have refused to do so.

In response, families have camped out in front of the ministry, demanding they enforce the ruling.

IMG_3259

Peaceful protesters in front of the Ministry of Energy and Mining.

The Guatemalan congress has called on the Minister to justify his lack of action.

As the pressure mounts, the US-owned mine continues to operate. The waste-water tailing pond continues to fill as material is extracted and treated with a chemical bath – procedures not fully addressed in the Environmental Impact Assessment, and without any oversight regarding the structural integrity of the holding tank or mandatory testing of possible contamination of the local water supply.

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Holding tank at the El Tambor mine

With communities again blocking the entrance to the mine, Exmingua employees have taken to illegally transporting petroleum for mining machinery by foot. They were stopped by the police on at least one occasion, but a recent video captured them exiting with empty canisters.

In the last couple of days, the company has begun to use helicopters to carry large containers in and out of the mine.

 

Despite intense US pressure on the Guatemalan government to address corruption and improve rule of law, the Embassy has been silent on a US Company’s alleged evasion of legal procedures and it’s ongoing operations despite multiple court injunctions.

Background: 

Communities in the area have been in non-violent resistance since 2011, and have maintained a presence outside the mine for over 4 years. Continue reading

La Puya Protest at the Ministry of Energy and Mines

Gallery

This gallery contains 7 photos.

La Puya activists staged a protest in front of the Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Defense (MEM) in Guatemala City today to demand that the government body act on the Supreme Court’s ruling to suspend the license of Kappes, Cassiday … Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: November 2-13

Puyasign-machineryUS Congress to Guatemalan President: Halt Illegal Mining Operations at La Puya

This week, GHRC announced that 12 members of the US Congress sent a letter to Guatemalan President Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre to raise concerns about abuses related to the El Tambor gold mine in San Pedro Ayampuc, Guatemala. The letter calls on the President to use his authority to uphold human rights and to ensure that the mine’s owner–the US-based company Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA)–promptly halts its illegal operations.

The congressional letter was mentioned in this Prensa Libre opinion piece (in Spanish); you can also read more in our full press release, and read the congressional letter in its entirety here.

NGOs Demand Palm Oil Industry Stop Abuses in Latin America

GHRC joined a coalition of NGOs in delivering a letter to the world’s biggest palm oil traders, alerting them to the gross violations of human rights occurring in the palm oil sector in Mesoamerica — including the recent murder of Guatemalan environmental activist Rigoberto Lima Choc.

“In Guatemala, community members engaging in legitimate actions to protect their water quality and environment consistently face threats, attacks, and assassinations,” said Kelsey Alford-Jones, “often committed with impunity due to a lack of judicial independence, widespread government corruption, and ineffective oversight of corporate practices.”

Read the press release here.

New Report: State of Fear and Terror Deliberately Created to Force Tahoe Resources’ Mine on Guatemalan Communities

A new report reveals the dramatic extent of the militarized security strategy that Canadian-US mining company Tahoe Resources developed to quash community opposition to its Escobal project in southeastern Guatemala. Read the entire report by Guatemalan investigative journalist Luis Solano here.

CICIG Proposes Tax to Combat Impunity in Guatemala

The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) has proposed the creation of a temporary tax on “large assets” in order to increase funds for criminal investigations as well as other programs related to combating corruption and impunity in Guatemala. While this is just the beginning of a proposal, the head of CICIG, Iván Velásquez, explained that immediate action must be taken to strengthen the Guatemalan justice system. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: August 4-7

‘Obnoxious’ La Puya Members Will Not Make the Gold Mine Go Away, CEO Says

Vice News

Vice News

In a Vice News article, Jeff Abbott reports on the recent victory won by La Puya in a local Guatemalan court and his interview with Dan Kappes, CEO of mining company Kappes, Cassiday, & Associates (KCA), while on his recent trip to Guatemala.

Despite the court’s ruling that KCA had obtained an invalid construction license and its order for the company to suspend all construction at El Tambor within 15 days, Kappes stated in the interview that, “the construction license is a moot point.” In addition to claiming that the company had in fact carried out a consultation with the community, Kappes also asserted: “I guess the protesters think that if they are obnoxious enough, the mine will go away.”

Leading up to the 15-day deadline, GHRC delivered an open letter to KCA with over 2,200 signatures, demanding that the company comply with the court decision. Despite these actions, KCA has as of now decided to continue operations at the mine.

GHRC will continue to support La Puya, and urge KCA to abide by Guatemalan law.

5 Guatemalan Soldiers Detained Following Leaked Video

Police in Guatemala have detained five soldiers on abuse of authority charges after a video circulated on social media showing them beating two teenagers. The incident occurred on July 26 after an army patrol received a report from neighbors that the minors in the video were allegedly drinking and assaulting people, according to army spokesperson Hugo Rodriguez. The video shows the five soldiers repeatedly kicking the boys in the stomach, slapping them, and pulling them off the ground by their hair, among other forms of abuse. According to the article, the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office (PDH) opened an investigation of the two soldiers, and the Public Prosecutor’s Office stated that it will also initiate an investigation.

Land Rights Victory for Poqomchi’ Community in Alta Verapaz

Upside Down World

Upside Down World

Nearly 300 Poqomchi’ Maya families residing in the Primavera communities of Alta Verapaz have won a significant victory in their fight for land rights. On July 14, community representatives and the Guatemalan Land Fund signed documents to officially recognize three communities as the owners of the approximately 800 hectares of land where they have been residing for over 200 years.

The Secretary of Agrarian Affairs oversaw the titling of the land to the communities, after the land had been occupied by Maderas Filips Dias/Eco-Tierra, a logging company, and various other transnational companies harvesting palm oil and sugar cane without the consent of the community. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: July 27-31

Victory for La Puya: “Communities struggling against mining win major victory in Guatemala”

This Upside Down World article describes the July 15 victory for the environmental movement ‘La Puya’ when Judge Angelica Noemi Tellez Hernandez ruled in favor of the nonviolent community resistance. The judge ordered Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA) to suspend the construction of all infrastructure projects at its El Tambor mine in San Pedro Ayampuc.

GHRC has been supporting communities through a Change.org campaign, calling on KCA to comply with the court sentence. You can also read more about the court ruling on our blog.

Guatemalan Reporters Subjected to Increased Violence

The Association of Guatemalan Reporters (La Asociación de Periodistas de Guatemala) stated that it condemns the increase in aggression against reporters in the year 2015, and denounced the “constant intent to sabotage their informative work.” The CICIG is aware of the the influx in aggression and has expressed concern about this phenomenon.

La Tribuna

Ríos Montt Retrial Halted Once Again

Rios Montt was ordered on Saturday by a Guatemalan court to be transferred to a national hospital for additional psychiatric observation; the decision rejects a prior medical report conducted by Guatemala’s National Forensics Institute (Inacif) that found Ríos Montt senile, and thus unfit for trial. At the last minute, Montt’s scheduled transfer was blocked by a legal maneuver on the part of his defense attorneys, again halting the proceedings of the retrial for genocide and crimes against humanity.

Read more about the latest developments in the case in Spanish. Continue reading

Victoria para La Puya: Corte guatemalteca ordena suspensión de trabajos de construcción en la mina El Tambor

La GHRC aplaude el fallo de un tribunal de amparo de Guatemala que el 15 julio ordenó que se realice una consulta de vecinos sobre proyectos que los afecten y ordenó la suspensión de trabajos de construcción en la mina El Tambor.

El fallo es un indicio positivo para los miembros de las municipalidades de San Pedro Ayampuc y San José del Golfo quienes se han unido en resistencia pacífica para oponerse a un proyecto que consideran altamente dañino.

El movimiento conocido como ‘La Puya’ ha mantenido una presencia los 24 horas al día, 365 díal al año en la entrada del sitio por más de tres años. Durante ese tiempo La Puya ha denunciado actos intimidatorios e ilegales de parte de la empresa guatemalteca que posee la licencia de minería, EXMINGUA, junto con su casa matriz Kappes, Cassidy & Associates, empresa estadounidense con sede en Reno, Nevada.

La querella legal presentada en octubre de 2014 por las autoridades de dos comunidades afectadas, El Carrizal y El Guapinol, acusa al gobierno municipal de no cumplir con su deber de actuar por el bien de los ciudadanos.

La denuncia acusa al Consejo Municipal de San Pedro Ayampuc -donde se ubica la mina – de fallar en su deber de detener los trabajos de construcción en la mina y de no defender los intereses de las comunidades afectadas. Argumentan que el Consejo tenía la responsabilidad de actuar dado su conocimiento que la empresa había violado la ley operando sin licencia de construcción, teniendo documentación de preocupaciones sobre la contaminación y la cualidad del agua y por no haber llevado al cabo una válida consulta previa.
Continue reading